Maryland health care lobbyists have launched a negative radio ad against East Baltimore Democrat Julius Henson, who is challenging State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in this month's primary election.
The ad, paid for by Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative Inc., praises the public health record of McFadden and criticizes Henson, a long-time campaign operative who does not support a plan to increase the tobacco tax.
The group wants Maryland lawmakers to raise the tax on each pack of cigarettes from $2 to $3 to disincentivize smoking. But the ad also references Henson's involvement in a 2010 robocall prosecutors say was intented to suppress African-American votes.
"In East Baltimore, Senator Nathaniel McFadden has been a strong advocate for quality, affordable health care. McFadden supports the Healthy Maryland Initiative to raise the tobacco tax by a buck a pack so the money can help reduce teen smoking and provide more folks with the health care they need," the ad states. "The challenger? Julius Henson is a political hired gun who got caught trying to suppress the black vote to benefit the Republicans. Henson doesn't support the life-saving Healthy Maryland Initiative. Why? Maybe because his campaign got some big money from a tobacco industry lobbyist."
Henson's campaign released a statement in response, saying he "emphatically rejects" the ad.
"Mr. Henson is categorically against any additional or increased taxes on Maryland citizens," the campaign said. "He believes Marylanders are burdened with too many taxes and any additional tobacco taxes should be levied against the manufacturers of cigarettes or stores that sell them. In addition, Mr. Henson says there is no evidence that higher cigarette prices deter people from smoking."